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Why Christianity Looks Invented

Let me propose this axiom: a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god. That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.

Let’s first look at a parallel example in the domain of languages. Imagine that you’re a linguist and you’re creating a tree of world languages. Each language should be nearer languages that are related and similar, and it should be farther from those that are dissimilar. Spanish and Portuguese are next to each other on the tree; add French, Italian, and others and call that the Romance Languages; add other language groups like Germanic, Celtic, and Indic and you get the Indo-European family; and so on.

Here’s your challenge: you have two more languages to fit in. First, find the spot for English. It’s pretty easy to see, based on geography, vocabulary, and language structure, that it fits into the Germanic group. Next, an alien language like a real Klingon or Na’vi. This one wouldn’t fit in at all and would be unlike every human language.

Now imagine a tree of world religions. Your challenge is to find the place for Yahweh worship of 1000 BCE. Is it radically different from all the manmade religions, as unlike manmade religions as the alien language was to human languages? Or does it fit into the tree comfortably next to the other religions of the Ancient Near East, like English fits nicely into the Germanic group?

You’d expect the worship of the actual creator of the universe to look dramatically different from religions invented by Iron Age tribesmen in Canaan, but religious historians tell us that Yahweh looks similar to other Canaanite deities like Asherah, Baal, Moloch, Astarte, Yam, or Mot. In fact, Yahweh was a Canaanite god, and the Canaanites worshiped him as well.

What could he be but yet another invented god?

Cruel men invent cruel gods
— Bertrand Russell

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 9/12/11.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • ZenDruid

    They didn’t invent doodly-squat.

    Not only did they co-opt a Canaanite minor god analogous to the Hellenic Ares (a bad move in itself), but they also co-opted chunks of older Mesopotamian mythology. Not even original.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    I’d like to see someone make a diagram to show the relationship of the different deities. This may be a bit more difficult than languages, particularly the cross-over myths from Egypt, Rome, and Greece. Still, I bet it could be done. Perhaps they could be grouped by skills–fertility, agriculture, sun/moon, etc. Then there could be another group for monotheistic sorts–Yahweh, Allah, Christian God. It would be fun, in a completely geeky way, to see this mapped out.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    What if all other worship is a corruption of true religion? You say:

    That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.

    But it is an imitation all the same.

    However, there are some key things that set Yahweh worship apart. The big one is “no idols”. Find another religion in ANE culture that did not have idols? Not easy, right?

    So your argument seems to have flaws at two points. Firstly, it appears that your claim that Yahweh worship is not distinctive within the family of neighbouring religions is not substantiated. Secondly, even if it was, it does not support your conclusion.

    • ZenDruid

      It’s difficult for nomads to cart idols around, especially when those nomads do not appear to have used wheel technology at the time. The very portable ‘ark of the covenant’ simply replaced idols.

      • Mr. X

        That reply doesn’t really work, because the OT attitude to idols is absolutely not “Oh, well, idols are great, it’s just that there are practical considerations which prevent us from using them right now.” Idols are seen as wrong in and of themselves, which is why they are still considered bad even in the Books dealing with the period after the Israelites had settled down, and consequently wouldn’t have needed to cart their idols around the desert.

        • Kodie

          I find it difficult to understand the prohibition on idols as anything more than a technicality, since all of you cry big baby tears whenever someone wants to take down a cross put up illegally on public land.

        • Mr. X

          Are you a closet theist trying to make the atheist movement look silly? Because if so, you’re doing a very good job of it.

        • Kodie

          That’s what you came up with?

        • Mr. X

          It’s hard to make a substantive reply to something completely lacking in substance.

        • chris buchholz

          For one you are not exactly correct when it comes to practice. Priests did certainly claim no idols, but historically people like Joshua ran around creating holy sites that were exactly the same as what we would refer to as Pagan. (Which is why the Jews destroyed those sites many years later)

          Secondly, he’s right. Whether the ancient Jews did not think idols should be worshipped is one thing, but modern Christians are brimming with idolatry. The Muslims are a lot better at avoiding idolatry than Christians are. Even the fundamentalists and evangelicals that accuse Catholics of idolatry, practice it, and fall into the traps that go along with it.

          And thirdly, it is not unique. Greek philosophers also advocated getting rid of idols and sacrifice. Many greek philosophers especially Democritus, Anaxagoras, and those earlier than Plato, also thought the “super human” gods worshipped by most were silly for the very same reasons as this article. That if there is a god or gods, they would not merely be super human. These were non theists for the most part, and not Hebrews. Later philosphers thought we needed a better conception of God than the idolatry and sacrifice practiced by many.

          Of course, some may have been influenced by judaism, which was looked highly upon compared to many others.

          So it’s not really unique, but many thinkers between 1000 bcy to 0cy were thinking the same thing. It is more an evolution in thought about the divine that was being made all over.

        • ZenDruid

          On the same token, Mr X, the ancient Hebrews venerated the ark at least as much as the others venerated their idols. Per Leviticus, proper behavior in the Tabernacle is a life or death issue. My argument is that for them, a trunk full of holy objects assumed the same sacred stature as an idol.

          Tradition preserved the form of their quasi-idol.

        • Mr. X

          Strictly speaking, the Hebrews didn’t venerate their Ark; they venerated God, whom they believed was specially present in the Ark. You may think that’s a trivial distinction, but the ancient Israelites would have disagreed.

        • Mr. X

          And come to think of it, if the Israelites could take the Ark of the Covenant around with them, why couldn’t they take an idol?

        • Kodie

          Sour grapes on the idol-carting business? Random cosmic justifications due to unmanageably impractical physical objects? At no time in the history of humanity has anyone ever, ever rationalized that it makes them a better person to be not so attached to physical items as a way of coming to emotional terms with not being able to keep something that serves no practical purpose, nor judge others negatively for their materialism. Never.

        • Mr. X

          “Sour grapes on the idol-carting business? Random cosmic justifications due to unmanageably impractical physical objects?”

          Do you have any evidence for this, or are you just putting down any silly suggestions that come to mind?

        • Kodie

          The bible can put spin on any situation. I’m just making guesses like you are. I don’t see what’s so exceptional about the prohibition on idols that suggests Christianity is more real than any other religion that makes its own rules for reasons going from personal preference to “they’re never going to buy this” and pretends they are from god so you better do what it says.

        • Mr. X

          “The bible can put spin on any situation.”

          So which verses support your “sour grapes on the idol-carting business” theory?

        • Kodie

          Who do you think you are, Geraldo Rivera? You believe everything in the bible just as it’s written and with no ulterior motive from the writer? PS. The bible is written by guys. Maybe one of ‘em was creeped out by the eyes looking at him and had to make up something manly-like to keep everyone else from having them. Everyone interprets what they want to believe from the bible and the bible was written by guys. This whole diversion about the idol-worship prohibition distinguishing it from all the other religions is a fancy salesman tactic, but it doesn’t mean anything.

          What are you going to do, lash out at me again for being bad at atheism?

        • Mr. X

          “You believe everything in the bible just as it’s written and with no ulterior motive from the writer?”

          No, I just don’t take the existence of ulterior motives as carte blanche to come up with silly theories and throw them around without providing any evidence for them whatsoever.

          “This whole diversion about the idol-worship prohibition distinguishing it from all the other religions is a fancy salesman tactic, but it doesn’t mean anything. “

          You haven’t provided any grounds for thinking that, still less for thinking that your own interpretation is more plausible.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          You believe everything in the bible just as it’s written and with no ulterior motive from the writer?

          You know, asserting that because something was written with ulterior motive it is therefore false is, strictly speaking, ad hominem.

          The bible is written by guys.

          A significant portion of it was, yes. But, once again, this is ad hominem. And, in this case, I think it is fairly clear that the hominem you are going ad is males in general.

          Maybe one of ‘em was creeped out by the eyes looking at him and had to make up something manly-like to keep everyone else from having them.

          I don’t think you meant what you typed here.

          Everyone interprets what they want to believe from the bible

          So, your assertion is that Mr. X can’t be correct because someone disagrees with him? OK. I disagree with you.

          bible was written by guys

          I hear an echo in here. This is no less ad hominem than it was earlier in the paragraph.

          This whole diversion about the idol-worship prohibition distinguishing it from all the other religions is a fancy salesman tactic, but it doesn’t mean anything.

          I don’t see your justification for this. Of course, you have called me stupid in the past, so maybe I have just missed your explanation of this earlier in the thread.

        • Kodie

          So, your assertion is that Mr. X can’t be correct because someone disagrees with him? OK. I disagree with you.

          No, my assertion is that Mr. X speaks with as much authority about his assertion as I do, i.e., none. Quit pestering me about believing everything I even say – you’re questioning it, which indicates you’re selective about what you question based on whether you’ve believed it a long time or it came from a book alleged to be breathed by god or your priest made up something, so of course, he would know how to talk it up until you bought it.

          And, in this case, I think it is fairly clear that the hominem you are going ad is males in general.

          Males in general? Where are you pulling this from?

          This whole diversion about the idol-worship prohibition distinguishing it from all the other religions is a fancy salesman tactic, but it doesn’t mean anything.

          I don’t see your justification for this. Of course, you have called me stupid in the past, so maybe I have just missed your explanation of this earlier in the thread.

          Your religion is so different from the others because “NOW! Idol-Worship-FREE!” A pretty academic example of a marketing technique – “ours don’t have that nasty ____”, while some of the other brands don’t have it, or you may wish you had it so you pretend it’s not good for you or something, etc., etc., gullible consumers. What is actually the point of using that as an example for anything? So we talk about it instead of Bob’s article or any relevant points. Or you just think you’re clever because you noticed a difference in the pattern, this proves you’re intellectual while still being religious. Rather, your brand loyalty, er, prejudice is showing. Idol-lessness doesn’t really bring up any relevant points no matter how many bible verses you talk around it, and Mr. X is pointing at the wrong culprit.

        • Kodie

          Sorry, I got you and Karl Udy mixed up for who is responsible for introducing this tangent.

        • Mr. X

          “No, my assertion is that Mr. X speaks with as much authority about his assertion as I do, i.e., none.”

          The only assertions I made are that the Bible considers idols to be wrong, and that this attitude continues in the Books set after the Israelites settled down in Palestine. Both of which are true, and can easily be verified by flicking through a copy of the Bible. You, on the other hand, rejected the commonly-held view of the prohibition on idols without giving any justification whatsoever, and proposed a rather unlikely alternative, again without giving any justification whatsoever. Our two positions aren’t at all analogous, and only somebody blinded by ideology could think otherwise.

          “Quit pestering me about believing everything I even say – you’re questioning it, which indicates you’re selective about what you question based on whether you’ve believed it a long time or it came from a book alleged to be breathed by god or your priest made up something, so of course, he would know how to talk it up until you bought it. “

          Or that we aren’t prepared to accept silly and unevidenced ideas because… well, because some commenter in a combox says so.

          “Your religion is so different from the others because “NOW! Idol-Worship-FREE!” A pretty academic example of a marketing technique – “ours don’t have that nasty ____”, “

          Except that idols *weren’t* considered nasty in the ancient world, so why that would be a good marketing ploy is beyond me. I’m also not sure why a non-proselytising religion would want to use marketing ploys in the first place.

        • Kodie

          Or that we aren’t prepared to accept silly and unevidenced ideas because… well, because some commenter in a combox says so.

          Who? You or me? The fact that you’re trying to argue me to defend statements at least I am aware are hypothetical since I’m the one who made them up tells me you are prone to take things literally, kind of like my mom, because someone important presents it. I’m not that important, but you can’t prove what I did say isn’t true! You’re not even trying.

          Except that idols *weren’t* considered nasty in the ancient world, so why that would be a good marketing ploy is beyond me. I’m also not sure why a non-proselytising religion would want to use marketing ploys in the first place.

          People tend to need their beliefs reinforced from time to time or else be in danger of thinking it through. I love how Christians’ favorite thing to do is analyze one single word literally as if that makes your argument airtight and miss the content. Does the bible say idol worship is “nasty”? Is that so different from forbidden, banned, prohibited, or any word like that? Product labels rarely say the word “nasty” about substances they’re free of, but it’s implied by their being proud to be free of them and hoping you won’t turn the package around to see what’s actually in it as if you actually care about nutrition. Or the religious analogy – the devil (or devil-analogy) is in anything that leads you to understand that I’m lying my balls off; buy my god.

          Of course this idol tangent doesn’t have anything to do with anything except one person’s pet instinct that this somehow contradicts Bob’s assertion. Maybe something does, but this doesn’t. Does this or that religion look wacky compared to yours? It’s a matter of perspective. Also, you’re not really good at understanding analogies.

        • Mr. X

          “Who? You or me? The fact that you’re trying to argue me to defend statements at least I am aware are hypothetical since I’m the one who made them up tells me you are prone to take things literally, kind of like my mom, because someone important presents it. I’m not that important, but you can’t prove what I did say isn’t true! You’re not even trying.”

          I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about here. I pointed out that the Bible is anti-idolatry, you tried to counter by saying that it could instead be “sour grapes on the idol-carting business” or “random cosmic justifications due to unmanageably impractical physical objects”, and now we’re being unreasonable for pointing out that your speculations are prima facie quite implausible and have evidence whatseover to back them up?

          “People tend to need their beliefs reinforced from time to time or else be in danger of thinking it through. I love how Christians’ favorite thing to do is analyze one single word literally as if that makes your argument airtight and miss the content. Does the bible say idol worship is “nasty”? Is that so different from forbidden, banned, prohibited, or any word like that? Product labels rarely say the word “nasty” about substances they’re free of, but it’s implied by their being proud to be free of them and hoping you won’t turn the package around to see what’s actually in it as if you actually care about nutrition. Or the religious analogy – the devil (or devil-analogy) is in anything that leads you to understand that I’m lying my balls off; buy my god.”

          Except that for most people in the ancient Middle East, idol worship was not considered wrong and “we don’t have idols” wouldn’t have been seen as an advantage over other religions. Banning idols would not therefore have helped the Jews to “sell” their religion. (Not that they seem to have been too interested in “selling” it anyway, but we’ll let that pass for argument’s sake).

    • J-Rex

      Wow, it really amazes me when people make statements like this and don’t take the time to make sure they’re true. You’re on the internet! You can find out anything you want to know here with the click of a button. But you don’t want to know, you’d rather assume.
      Islam does not believe in idols. You should have known that off the top of your head. Sikhism also strongly rejects idols.
      In terms of more ancient cultures, it’s a lot easier to study a group that leaves behind symbols and art of their religion than a group that doesn’t believe in it, so naturally we know little about ancient civilizations that rejected idols, especially if they didn’t record their history.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      I get it–Yahweh worship wasn’t identical to the worship of other gods. If it were, of course, we’d not call it a different religion.

      My point is something else–that it appears to be just a variant on the basic Canaanite theme. It looks to be a cousin of the other religions, not radically different from them.

  • Mr. X

    “You’d expect the worship of the actual creator of the universe to look dramatically different from religions invented by Iron Age tribesmen in Canaan,”

    No, because all human beings can have some access to the nature of God thro’ experience of His presence and the exercise of reason, so we’d expect some similarities to crop up in many belief systems. In fact, I’d be more inclined to say that Christianity was invented if it were totally different from every other religion known to man.

    “In fact, Yahweh was a Canaanite god, and the Canaanites worshiped him as well.”

    Not really. “YHWH” was the Canaanite word meaning “god”, and they often used this term to refer to their chief deity. This doesn’t mean that the Canaanite YHWH and the Jewish YHWH were the same, any more than the fact that the Romans sometimes referred to Jupiter as “Deus” means Jupiter and the Christian God were the same.

    • Paul D.

      You’re thinking of El. Yahweh was a storm god, one of the sons of El, and more-or-less equivalent to the Syro-Canaanite god Baal-Hadad.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    J-Rex,
    Before you make a knee-jerk reaction, check to see what the statement is. Neither Islam nor Sikhism are ANE (Ancient Near East) religions. And in fact both Islam (7th century) and Sikhism (15th century) can probably trace their aversion to idols to Judaism, which had its beginnings a couple of thousand years before either of them.

    Can you find a religion which could be considered a contemporary to early Judaism (ie pre 500BC) which abhorred idols?

    Didn’t think so.

    • ZenDruid

      The ancient Hebrews were commanded by Moses to destroy any idol they might encounter. Big deal. That doesn’t signify anything other than their hostility to other religions. They had their own portable idol in the Ark.

  • Phillip Moon

    Some of the things that seem to missing in this is that most biblical scholars recognize Moses and Abraham to be mythical critters, David if he existed was, most likely, a local chieftain and the Jewish/Hebrew religion didn’t exist much beyond 700 – 800 BCE.

    The most reasonable explanation for the idol exclusion, isn’t that the Jews were somehow connected to the “real” god, but that the priests and scribes putting the scriptures together after their Babylonian exile were having problems getting peoples of the region to quit using idols to worship other gods, so they put the kibosh on idols all together. They put the words into the mouth of Moses. Easy enough to do when they were putting together the stories. The idea that any new innovation in a religion must be proof of its godliness ignores that humans come up with new ideas all the time. The argument against idol worship really doesn’t hold water.

    • Mr. X

      “the priests and scribes putting the scriptures together after their Babylonian exile were having problems getting peoples of the region to quit using idols to worship other gods, so they put the kibosh on idols all together.”

      Why is that the “most reasonable explanation”? Why not just say “Don’t worship any foreign gods”? Why assume that banning idols would stop people worshipping foreign gods, as opposed to just worshipping them without idols?

      • RowanVT

        Because in a lot of other religions, the idol was the conduit to the deity? No idol, no worship. I find it hilarious, though, because the cross is an idol. Jesus on the cross is even more of an idol.

        • ZenDruid

          While I’m on the Ark subject, it occurs to me that it is the Boss’ briefcase cum lunchbox.
          Seriously: it holds the Boss’ Highly Official Memoranda, in stone or on scroll, plus some of that manna stuff. It’s not an idol per se, as it has no eyes or mouth or genitals….
          But it’s the Boss’ property and don’t forget it!

        • Mr. X

          “Because in a lot of other religions, the idol was the conduit to the deity? No idol, no worship.”

          Then why not just ban idols of Baal, Astarte et al., rather than banning idols in general?

        • Vision_From_Afar

          Then why not just ban idols of Baal, Astarte et al., rather than banning idols in general?
          Because that would require a vetting by the high priests et al on what, exactly, the Idol of Yahweh(TM) would look like, which would be explicitly admitting “We’re making it up from here on.”

        • Mr. X

          “Because that would require a vetting by the high priests et al on what, exactly, the Idol of Yahweh(TM) would look like, which would be explicitly admitting “We’re making it up from here on.””

          Why? Other ancient religions had no problems depicting their gods, and people at the time don’t seem to have thought this implied that the religion was all made up.

        • Vision_From_Afar

          Why? Other ancient religions had no problems depicting their gods, and people at the time don’t seem to have thought this implied that the religion was all made up
          Simply put, when you’re borrowing stories and arguments and mythos to start up your own, new religion, you can either acknowledge the original and continue forward in a new direction (i.e. – Protestant Christianity) or you can scorch-earth and start over. The latter is is what happened here. Idols in the ancient world evolved and grew in detail or shape over generations, all starting from ones that came before. The Jews setting themselves apart as “the one and only” requires zero previous “backstory”, or even a hint of “that sounds vaguely familiar”, or it destroys the illusion of Primacy.
          The other ancient religions were not the least bit concerned with Primacy (something the Jews, Christians, and Muslims have used to devastating effect), so of course they had zero issue with depicting their gods, or even acknowledging similarities with other cultures and pantheons.

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    Let me propose this axiom: a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god.

    What is your justification of that axiom? Because it holds about as much water as the last axiom I discussed.

    To demonstrate the flaw, I will propose a counter axiom: a real Rolex will look nothing like a fake one. They should look radically different.

    But WAIT! They don’t.

    I guess that means that there are no real Rolex’s.

    • Phillip Moon

      This would explain why the fake Rolex cost the same as the real Rolex. Oh…wait, they don’t cost the same. Clearly, if your examination of the fake “Rolex” is properly compared to the real Rolex inside and out including materials you will notice that the fake “Rolex” is nothing like the real Rolex. Just saying.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        See, I knew I should have used a more complicated example. I cannot pretend that I could tell the difference between a Rolex and a Rolexx, but here is another example which is a little clearer:

        This statue was a fraud. It took years, dozens of scholars, and millions of dollars to determine that it was a fraud. Does its fraudulence mean that there are no real kouros? I can give more examples if you like.

        The point is that fraudulence will often provide similar output which is often indistinguishable from the original, especially for a layman. Are you saying that you do not expect fraud to seem similar to the original? Because otherwise, I think that these examples provide a legitimate counter to his original axiom.

        • Kodie

          How about they’re both man-made objects? What makes the earlier one more “real” than the forgery? A Rolex is a pretty nice watch but it’s not a more real watch than a Swatch.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          How about they’re both man-made objects? What makes the earlier one more “real” than the forgery? A Rolex is a pretty nice watch but it’s not a more real watch than a Swatch.

          It is SO tempting to make a joke about divine watch-maker at this point.

          That said, I don’t think your point really addresses the argument.

        • Kodie

          What is the real dance?

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          What is the real dance?

          This one. Here. Definitely.

        • RowanVT

          Or… maybe they’re all fraudulent? And equally “real”? It’s a watch. If it tells time, it is a real watch. May not be a ‘real’ Rolex, but it’s still a portable time piece.

          So thus, religions are all ‘real’ religions. But christianity and judaism and shinto and santaria are all different brands. If they all serve the same function, which one is “real”? And if they all serve the same function, how can one religion claim to be the “true” religion?

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Whether any (or none) of them is real is hardly the point. The point is that a fraudulence will involve imitation. Therefore, a standard that “a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god” is erroneous. Rather, we should expect that many religions will somehow try to attempt to imitate the one true one. As his axiom falls, so falls his argument.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      IT:

      What is your justification of that axiom? Because it holds about as much water as the last axiom I discussed.

      I don’t see what’s tricky here.

      Inept humans cobbling together an interpretation of the divine, on their own, will get it horribly, laughably wrong. Their guess at the supernatural compared to the real thing will be pretty night-and-day.

      The fake Rolex had a real Rolex to model itself after. That’s why your analogy isn’t at all like what I’m talking about.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        Inept humans cobbling together an interpretation of the divine, on their own, will get it horribly, laughably wrong.

        This is the point though. In the condition that there was a “true religion,” then that religion would not be doing things on their own.

        The fake Rolex had a real Rolex to model itself after. That’s why your analogy isn’t at all like what I’m talking about.

        Then your point is mute. Your original point is that you believed that a true religion would be radically different from a man-made religion. My counter is that imitation should be expected (especially if, as most religions assert, we all have complete access to the source). Your counter is now that we shouldn’t expect imitation because religion is false to begin with?

        Here is how I see it. You are presenting an argument “If X then Y”. I have answered, “No, if X then not Y.” You are now replying, “But X doesn’t exist.” Whether X is true or false is irrelevant. In this case, you are trying to take it a step further: “if true religion then it would be unique. No unique therefore no true religion”. I have contended that the proper expectation is “If true religion then true religion is likely to be imitated.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          This is the point though. In the condition that there was a “true religion,” then that religion would not be doing things on their own.

          Are we just talking past each other?

          This is precisely the distinction. When humans try to figure out on their own, with no divine intervention, what God is like, they will not come close. Contrast that to a religion where God actually coaches them through it. Big, big difference.

          That’s my point. Are we on the same page now?

          My counter is that imitation should be expected

          Yeah, after you see the correct religion! If Judaism looks more or less the same as the other Canaanite/Ugaritic religions, if it picks up elements from the Babylonians and Sumerians, then it is the copier, and it looks invented.

          Your challenge is to show a massive, startling break in the human experiment of inventing religions. And with Judaism, we don’t see it.

          “if true religion then it would be unique. No unique therefore no true religion”.

          Yes. And you’re saying this is flawed?

          I have contended that the proper expectation is “If true religion then true religion is likely to be imitated.”

          Agreed, but that’s not the subject.

  • Phillip Moon

    Ignatius Theophorus says:
    “Whether any (or none) of them is real is hardly the point. The point is that a fraudulence will involve imitation. Therefore, a standard that “a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god” is erroneous. Rather, we should expect that many religions will somehow try to attempt to imitate the one true one. As his axiom falls, so falls his argument.”

    There is no need to go all Platonic on us. It is more likely that religion evolved slowly from simple stories that work to explain the simple mysteries like rain, volcanos, the sun, moon, stars and planets, and the mystery of birth, to name only a few. As humans became more sophisticated their stories would take on more creative elements and even, on occasion, mimic reality. Gods are not an unreasonable outcome of this kind of story process, and there is no reason to assume that there is “one true one” (religion).

    And it is true that religions of a region do have evidence of heavy borrowing from one another. To suggest that humans who are so creative in other areas can’t come up with something that is new to add to their religion would be to do us a disservice.

    We are story tellers; gods make for great stories, and in lieu of the facts, as good an explanation as any other. The thing is, we now have more of the facts and don’t need the gods.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      It is more likely that religion evolved slowly from simple stories that work to explain the simple mysteries like rain, volcanos, the sun, moon, stars and planets, and the mystery of birth, to name only a few…

      BUT, that is not the point. Frankly, you could prove beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that all religions are exactly as you say and it would not effect my point in the slightest. Bob has proposed a hypothesis which simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

      So, instead of trying to prove whether or not there is or is not what some have mockingly called a great spaghetti monster , can we discuss the failed yardstick which originally spawned this conversation? Why is it reasonable to assume that “a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god”? How is that valid, logical, or consistent with other known metrics?

      • Phillip Moon

        Simply put, anything we come up with is likely to be a human created/invented religion. They all pretty much look the same thanks to the similarities in human cultures and our biology.

        Now let’s explore the concept of the worship of a “real god.” Assuming this “real god” created the universe, we are talking about one really unknowable entity. We might flatter ourselves that we could extrapolate what such a being would be like, but it’s not likely. All of our criteria for this god would be guesses and if it existed, our efforts would be wanting, leaving us with a human concept (just like all the others) that is again something of our own creation.

        If we could list the true attributes of this “real” god (say it came to us and handed us a list), then I suspect that what would be required of us would be very different indeed. If the god wanted us to grow and expand to travel the stars and evolve in new and unexpected ways, and we knew this, the religion built up about these concepts would look very different that anything our less informed ancestors would come up with. While I can’t be sure of it, I would be surprised if any “real” god would come to us and tell us that human sacrifice or subjugation of women was the way to go. Mixing materials, who we slept with, and what body parts should be snipped and covered are unlikely to make the worship list too. In fact, the whole concept of worship might be as alien to this god as it would be to us. That alone would mean that any religion built up around it would be notably different.

        Alas, as we will almost certainly never meet this “real” god, I would argue that the original axiom is still arguably more likely than not.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Alas, as we will almost certainly never meet this “real” god, I would argue that the original axiom is still arguably more likely than not.

          Ruling out something simply because it was accessible to our ancient ancestors seems a bit arbitrary and unjustified. For all we know, this hypothetical could very well have endorsed Baal worship. Maybe we’re only in some transitory phase where we will someday return to the worship of shrubbery in a new and purer form.

          Since you (and Bob) have both moved this entity into the quasi-mystic idea of “unknowable unknown” how do you begin approaching the questions regarding the qualities of such an entity? How can you come up with a proper means of estimating his properties without some form of special revelation? Clearly you must have some metric (which lies within the realm of falsifiability) to measure that which you claim is imaginary. So, what is it?

        • Phillip Moon

          Ignatius Theophorus, I’m not sure I know what you want from me. This is as close to an answer as I can get for your question/comment.

          1. I am an atheist. I do not believe in gods. There is no, zero, zilch evidence for them. Any of them.
          2. Thanks to the study of history, anthropology, archaeology, and comparative religion, not to mention most science, we have good reason to disregard any of the gods that humans currently worship.
          3. This “real” god that has been postulated is basically an exercise in speculative fiction. So far there is no reason to think that such a critter exists, and as such no reason to seriously try to decide what it might think of as proper worship.
          4. Any form of special revelation that wasn’t shared by everyone, but was, say imparted to one individual would be worthless. If it exists and wants to be known by us then I suspect it could figure out what was needed to get our attention.
          5. As to your very last statement, I refer to comment #2 above. We have good cause to label these gods we’ve created as imaginary, no different than unicorns, or fairies in the garden. We study the things that tell us about them and then we put a check in the column that fits. Real…imaginary…based on something real…likely real. I have no particular use for gods, so unless someone shows up with one, and the evidence to back it up, I don’t waste my time trying to find new ones.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          I am an atheist. I do not believe in gods. There is no, zero, zilch evidence for them. Any of them.

          Yet you speculate about what you believe cannot exist. Since you believe it cannot exist, how can you describe it as being separate from all of the world religions?

          This “real” god that has been postulated is basically an exercise in speculative fiction. So far there is no reason to think that such a critter exists, and as such no reason to seriously try to decide what it might think of as proper worship.

          It seems that you are side-stepping the question as to whether the original axiom (that true religion would look nothing like man-made religion) is plausible (I say “no” because man-made religion is fully capable of fraudulent imitation of the original (especially if one has a place for alternate supernatural entities in one’s worldview)). The very purpose of the blog entry is taking this axiom and demonstrating how no religion could fit what is expected of a hypothetical God.

          If you have issue with deciding what a hypothetical deity might demand, then perhaps your concerns are misplaced. Bob is the one who originally posited properties of the imaginary deity. You have followed suit. If anything, I have said that we should refrain from making such assumptions until we deal with the validity of the original axiom (and I have also said that the properties of God are quite probably off-topic for whether or not the axiom is a valid one).

          I have no particular use for gods, so unless someone shows up with one, and the evidence to back it up, I don’t waste my time trying to find new ones.

          Completely understandable. And I’m not trying to convince you that you should believe (admittedly, I think it would be better if you did. I am a Catholic after all); I am merely trying to get rid of a bad standard.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Simply put, anything we come up with is likely to be a human created/invented religion. They all pretty much look the same thanks to the similarities in human cultures and our biology.

          This is question-begging of the most dangerous kind.

          Can you imagine what it would be like if this was the line of argument used by a judge in a court of law? “Any suspect is bound to lie to protect themselves.” Of course, such a line will allow the judge to not be fooled by any lying suspects, but it will also render them incapable of detecting the truth said by a suspect falsely accused.

          Now, to get back to Bob’s originally proposed axiom:

          a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god. That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.

          Bob has proposed what is ultimately a very short stick to poke with. The limitations become obvious when we begin to study what we know are man-made religions. We can start our list with Scientology and Buddhism. Do we have any others? Bueller … Bueller … ?

          So if a religion is not like Scientology or Buddhism, then it might well be worshiping a real God? Since both Scientology and Buddhism deny that there really is a God, now is the time to congratulate ourselves and give ourselves a prize in “stating the obvious”.

  • Kristen inDallas

    I suppose the similarity or dissimilarity of the alien language would depend entirely on the amount of interaction the aliens had had with various groups of humans in the time before analyzing the languages. If the aliens had previously been completely hands-off, I would suspect the language to be drastically different. If however, the aliens had stopped in a few times to see how we were doing and leave around some helpful technology, then it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some similarities…

  • ZenDruid

    I’ll offer up a gnostic interpretation of God:
    A god worth his salt would have written his definitive word into the primal human consciousness.
    A god with an ounce of self-respect would not allow credulous loudmouths to speak for him.
    A god who truly has the fullest human potential at heart would be androgynous so as not to marginalize half the species.

    • Mr. X

      “A god worth his salt would have written his definitive word into the primal human consciousness.”

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this, but given that religious belief is found in pretty much every society, it’s arguable that what you demand has in fact happened.

      “A god who truly has the fullest human potential at heart would be androgynous so as not to marginalize half the species.”

      Erm, you do realise that Christianity, Islam and Judaism don’t think of God as literally male, don’t you?

      • ZenDruid

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by this, but given that religious belief is found in pretty much every society, it’s arguable that what you demand has in fact happened.

        If that’s the case, then humanity is forever doomed to be a motley collection of mutually hostile tribes. I gno better. I don’t demand anything, btw.

        Erm, you do realise that Christianity, Islam and Judaism don’t think of God as literally male, don’t you?

        In which parallel universe? This particular very phallocentric Boss has no discernible feminine side. If you disagree with that observation, then I suggest you don’t understand women all that well.

        • Kristen inDallas

          Ha! Which gender is it again that gives birth to new life? Which gender is more likely to cry out when betrayed that react with violence? And which gender has a greater fondness for planning things out in advance…? No discernable feminine side… pfft.

        • chris buchholz

          The only time you ever hear of any feminine attributes of God in the Bible is where it is said he protects us like a mother hen covers her chicks with her wings. one place in the entire Bible.

          And then later on, someone went and added passages to Timothy saying women should be covered up and quiet. Just to make sure we got the message.

          No, eqivocating about a few verses here and there won’t do, God is male in the mind of most Christians. Now philosophically christians will say “god is not male or female” but in their minds he is male, and they think of him as male. Which is what counts.

      • Phillip Moon

        Mr. X, I have to agree with ZenDruid on the point made about God being literally male. Far too many of the Christians I know, and grew up with (having gone to the So. Baptist Church, I’ve met a few) they would, with voices united, sing the praises of a male god. They would get all up in your face if you suggested that maybe god was female, or had both aspects. Uh-uh. God has balls. He is the King of Kings, Our Father. He is not described that way by accident in the Bible.

        • Kristen inDallas

          No offense meant to protestants, but ALL protestant faiths have their roots in picking and choosing what they want to believe. So if you’ve meant some in the God is litterally a male camp, I won’t be shocked. But basic foundational Christian doctrine teaches that God is neither man nor woman, but something else entirely.

        • ZenDruid

          “But basic foundational Christian doctrine teaches that God is neither man nor woman, but something else entirely.”
          Define. Describe. Cite your sources.

  • Phillip Moon

    Ignatius Theophorus says: “Yet you speculate about what you believe cannot exist.”
    I’m a fiction writer, it’s what I do.

    What got me into this discussion in the first place was the seeming acceptance of the Jewish/Christian stories as if they were real histories (most specifically the Old Testament), and the idol worship claims which I felt were off. Add to that the Rolex argument, which also felt off, and I was on this merry romp without having a plan.

    It’s time to go back to scratch.

    Bob said:
    Let me propose this axiom: a human-invented religion will look radically different than the worship of a real god. That is, human longing for the divine (or human imagination) will cobble together a very poor imitation of the real thing.

    There is no reasonable proof that we didn’t make the whole thing up and ample reason to believe we did. While I don’t believe there is a “real thing” (the divine) I would have to argue that if such existed, and one were able to actually prove it so that disbelief was irrational, it is likely that our hodge podge collection of world religions (and local religions (and personal religions)) would be off the mark. The reason is simple. There has been nothing to gage our success by in the creation of god(s) worship.

    Earlier I used the phrase, “There is no need to go all Platonic on us.” I think that was what happened in the axiom. The “real thing” would have to be the Platonic God Worship that all other god worships are shadows of. I guess I would have to argue that there isn’t really a Platonic reality that all other things don’t live up to, and that would include gods, worship and god worships. We are the creators. We are the makers and breakers of gods, and as such, we define what worship is regarding these gods. Perhaps the axiom should have read that “…human longing for an explanation outside of ourselves (this imagined divine), cobbles together a seemingly infinite number of examples of what worship should be where there something there to worship.”

    Now if you will excuse me, I have to go hold my head in a bucket of ice water.

    One other note:
    Karl Udy said: “The limitations become obvious when we begin to study what we know are man-made religions. We can start our list with Scientology and Buddhism.”

    Karl, they are all man-made religions, from the probable rites practiced by the Neanderthal to the Abrahamic trio, to the equally made-up 19th and 20th century religions. That is what you find when you spend time looking at them from an anthropological, archaeological, historical and otherwise scientific point of view. We made them all up. Just my two cents.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      Add to that the Rolex argument, which also felt off, and I was on this merry romp without having a plan.

      Unfortunately, the Rolex comment was taken in a way which had nothing to do with my original intended meaning. Again, the point (and my only point) is that his standard of “nothing is unique therefore nothing is valid” (at least implied by his statement) would imply that there could be no REAL Rolex because there is an imitation Rolex.

      If anything, he’s turning Platonic thought on its ear. He’s saying that because an “insufficient” real instance exists, a sufficient real instance cannot.

      Ignatius Theophorus says: “Yet you speculate about what you believe cannot exist.”
      I’m a fiction writer, it’s what I do.

      If I were to say, “If there are space aliens, then they must all have five noses and one ear” would you view that as a justifiable assertion? What makes assertion that a deity could not have created a religion which may have been imitated/distorted by neighboring peoples?

      • Kodie

        Mostly because humans have a long record of needing things and then figuring out how to get it. Do you think the “real” religion would arise after other religions were evident or before? If someone explained that the sun was pulled by a chariot, would you say that was obvious fundie bunk or would you say that was a poetic and metaphorical way of looking at it? One of the weird disagreements between atheists and theists suggests that nobody is really a sinner until someone tries to sell you the cure for it, or that atheists are walking around with a god-shaped hole because Christians believe that about themselves.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    Karl, they are all man-made religions, from the probable rites practiced by the Neanderthal to the Abrahamic trio, to the equally made-up 19th and 20th century religions. That is what you find when you spend time looking at them from an anthropological, archaeological, historical and otherwise scientific point of view. We made them all up. Just my two cents.

    Philip, this is called begging the question. You are attempting to show that religions are not from God but are man-made , and the key point of your argument is an assumption that religions are man-made.

  • Phillip Moon

    Karl Said: “Philip,[sic] this is called begging the question. You are attempting to show that religions are not from God but are man-made , and the key point of your argument is an assumption that religions are man-made.”

    Sorry Karl, but that is actually you badly re-framing my statements. Here’s what I said.
    “That is what you find when you spend time looking at them from an anthropological, archaeological, historical and otherwise scientific point of view.”

    Let’s look at Christianity/Judaism.

    First of all, we have the conical scriptures to work with, and work with them they have. Biblical criticism has clearly shown us that the Bible is a collection of stories, often competing tales, that have origins in the religions of the same region and more editors than can fit comfortably in a sizable castle. New and Old Testaments are a mix of myth, history, and propaganda, and about as unified as a room full of cats. And there’s all the non-conical scripture of both books and religions that provide even more reasons to doubt.

    Archaeology has put the lie to many stories; Moses and Abraham were literary constructs; Job’s story wasn’t even originally a Hebrews tale; there was no Exodus from Egypt and Joshua didn’t bring down those Jericho walls.

    Geology puts the lie to Noah and the Ark, a non-event, and biology rendered Adam and Eve fictional 150 years ago.

    There is little in the New Testament that supports the image (take a pick, there are several) of Jesus that most people have. Sure he may have existed, but no miracles, resurrection and the virgin birth was a pagan element made to fit a poor reading of the Old Testament. The Jesus we know almost certainly didn’t exist.

    Astronomy and physics quash many of the stories in the Old and New, and we have an understanding of the world (and universe) that puts the Bible to shame.

    There is no assumption on my part, Karl. I prefer using evidence and facts backed up by people who have spent their lives working in these fields and can provide both.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Just because a book includes a metaphor does not mean that the book is a completely fictional one. There are plenty of things that religious people say that science and history do not back up. But not all religions claim these things. There are other things which science and archaeology and historians do back up: http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4223639/k.567/Ancient_Evidence_for_Jesus_from_NonChristian_Sources.htm (link is to a summary page, includes references and links to sources)

      • ZenDruid

        Philo of Alexandria is conspicuous by his silence on the Jesus question, since he was excellently placed to observe and chronicle many of the purported gospel events.

  • Phillip Moon

    There is nothing new here that I haven’t read before. Josh McDowell’s apologetic books More than a Carpenter, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict all point to the same arguments, and the biggest problem with all of them is, just like the Gospels, none of them were written by anyone who knew Jesus.

    They were all written after his death, many of them 100 plus years after his death, and none by the people who would have known the facts.

    Largely, I don’t have a problem with accepting Jesus as an historical person, but that in no way suggests that the “history” of his life is anything like accurate. That he lived, and was crucified by the Romans is almost all we know about him. His teachings were not unique and much of what he supposedly said or did were created from whole cloth to fit with “prophesy” from the Old Testament. That he may have lived doesn’t even begin to demonstrate that any of the magic and godly claims made by his followers of later years ever happened.

    There are many good books and articles out there that cover this topic. This retread of McDowell’s sorry books by Michael Gleghorn doesn’t do the subject justice.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      They were all written after his death, many of them 100 plus years after his death, and none by the people who would have known the facts.

      Stop exaggerating. The likeliest dates for all four of the Gospels are all within 100 years of the crucifixion. It is conceivable that they are all second hand accounts. It is unlikely that Mark was separated from Christ by more than four degrees. It is more than reasonable to believe that he knew and worked with living Apostles (most of whom would have survived until that point). It is quite believable that the authors of Matthew and Mark both benefitted from the input of one or more of the extra-apostolic disciples (which puts them both as recording first-hand accounts (this makes them a pretty reliable source for the ancient world)).

      Luke and John are a little bit further away, but they are still within a possible lifespan. While the writings would have greater potentiality to drift, it is still within the realm of believable that a surviving disciple might have contributed. But, even if this were not the case, the accounts would not be more than a few degrees removed from the surviving from the 72.

  • Phillip Moon

    I said:
    “They were all written after his death, many of them 100 plus years after his death, and none by the people who would have known the facts.”

    Ignatius Theophorus said:
    “Stop exaggerating. The likeliest dates for all four of the Gospels are all within 100 years of the crucifixion.”

    Phil Says:
    What is missing from the above? “…and the biggest problem with all of them is, just like the Gospels, none of them were written by anyone who knew Jesus.” This comment wasn’t directed at the Gospels. It was directed to the documents and writers that were not part of the Christian movement. In short, all of them were written after Jesus’s death, most of them were written at around the 100 years mark or later.

    Ignatius Theophorus said:
    “It is conceivable that they are all second hand accounts. It is unlikely that Mark was separated from Christ by more than four degrees. It is more than reasonable to believe that he knew and worked with living Apostles (most of whom would have survived until that point).”

    Phil says:
    The majority of biblical scholars argue that Mark didn’t know anyone who knew Jesus, and that he was most likely working off of some written documents and verbal history. The date usually given for his writings was right after the Jewish War, about 70 CE or later. That’s roughly 40 year after Jesus died (20 years after Paul started writing), and while there were possibly living Apostles, few think Mark knew them. Of course, we also don’t know who Mark was or if Mark was his name. This is a name assigned to him by tradition.

    Ignatius Theophorus said:
    “It is quite believable that the authors of Matthew and Mark both benefitted from the input of one or more of the extra-apostolic disciples (which puts them both as recording first-hand accounts (this makes them a pretty reliable source for the ancient world)). Luke and John are a little bit further away, but they are still within a possible lifespan.”

    Phil says:
    Eh…really? Mark was written (as pointed out above) around 70 CE or later, and Matthew and Luke are believed to have been written about 80 – 90 CE, and John as late as 100 CE or later. None of the books are believed to have been written in Israel, given locations like Rome, Syria, Antioch, and Ephesus though these are all educated guesses, as there is no convenient postal mark. Yes, someone may have lived long enough to contribute to these books, but there is nothing in any of them that lead scholars to accept that notion. Biblical scholars mostly argue that Mark used material to create his book, and that there were additional bits added on much later. Matthew and Luke both made use of very large chunks of Mark, and share one other document, as well as having their own other sources. John was smoking something altogether different, and came up with a story very divergent from the others.

    The earliest writer in the Bible is Paul, and Paul didn’t know Jesus. He seems to have known Peter (with whom he didn’t see eye to eye) but Paul almost never talks about Jesus. He talks about the risen Christ, and the Christ of his vision, but not much about Jesus, so he isn’t much help about the history of Jesus.

    The Gospel writers clearly has stories they wanted to tell, and there is little doubt that they were not above making things up, changing people, places and times to create a better story. They were propagandists.

    Back briefly to the other mentions of Jesus outside of the Bible in those early days. They aren’t worth anything from an evidential point of view. They were all written by people who didn’t know Jesus, some of them probably didn’t even know any real Christians, and likely all were using established Christian stories when the referred to comments weren’t out and out frauds.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    First of all, we have the conical scriptures to work with, and work with them they have. Biblical criticism has clearly shown us that the Bible is a collection of stories, often competing tales, that have origins in the religions of the same region and more editors than can fit comfortably in a sizable castle. New and Old Testaments are a mix of myth, history, and propaganda, and about as unified as a room full of cats. And there’s all the non-conical scripture of both books and religions that provide even more reasons to doubt.

    The Bible is a collection of documents, I don’t believe that is argued by anyone. And it is also accepted that there are separate accounts of many events the Bible covers, with the Samuel-Kings/Chronicles accounts of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, and the four gospel accounts being the most obvious and prominent. It is also true that the Bible includes a variety of genres, and if you mean to refer to myth and propaganda as genres then I accept that the Bible does include them. All of this though, has no bearing on the likelihood or not of these Scriptures being of divine inspiration. If however you are using myth and propaganda pejoratively, then you have again shown your colours as having pre-judged the evidence.

    Archaeology has put the lie to many stories; Moses and Abraham were literary constructs; Job’s story wasn’t even originally a Hebrews tale; there was no Exodus from Egypt and Joshua didn’t bring down those Jericho walls.

    Geology puts the lie to Noah and the Ark, a non-event, and biology rendered Adam and Eve fictional 150 years ago.

    The problems with Noah, and Adam and Eve you mention are only problems if you insist on Genesis 1-11 being of the historical genre.

    I am intrigued by your comments regarding how archaeology has shown the Biblical accounts of Abraham, Moses, the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan to be untrue. From what I understand, at best, archaeology has not made any discoveries that speak authoritatively about these people or events.

    There is little in the New Testament that supports the image (take a pick, there are several) of Jesus that most people have. Sure he may have existed, but no miracles, resurrection and the virgin birth was a pagan element made to fit a poor reading of the Old Testament. The Jesus we know almost certainly didn’t exist.

    While I agree that many people have an image of Jesus that reflects more their own cultural ideals than the reality of history, I don’t think has any bearing on Jesus’ working of miracles, birth or resurrection. It seems that you have been reading too narrowly. Perhaps reading something by NT Wright or Richard Bauckham, who are tow of the foremost NT scholars might be illuminating.

    Astronomy and physics quash many of the stories in the Old and New, and we have an understanding of the world (and universe) that puts the Bible to shame.

    And now we get down to the really revealing stuff. You believe that a modern intelligent person simply could not believe some of the things (esp regarding science) that people thousands of years ago commonly believed. Therefore you believe that it is impossible that God could have spoken to those people thousands of years ago using language and concepts that they understood. Instead you expect that if the Bible were true, it would demonstrate understanding of scientific concepts exactly as we understand them today. If the Bible had demonstrated an understanding of Newtonian physics it might have satisfied someone like you 200 years ago. But not now. Of course, if the Bible really did demonstrate an understanding of Newtonian physics, or quantum physics, it would have been totally meaningless to the audience that received the documents at the time.

    You may not be begging the question. But if you are not then you are definitely attacking a straw man. You would allow no other historical claims to be brought down by such flimsy attacks. Why do allow them to do so against religion?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      From what I understand, at best, archaeology has not made any discoveries that speak authoritatively about these people or events.

      The Exodus is the one that, as I understand it, is most un-supported by archeology. When you ought to find something but don’t, despite having looked diligently, that’s strong evidence that your something isn’t there.

      When 2 million people were supposed to have died in the Sinai, we should find evidence. Yes, I know it was a long time ago, but the Sinai should have preserved the bodies well (the Jews wouldn’t have cremated).

      Instead you expect that if the Bible were true, it would demonstrate understanding of scientific concepts exactly as we understand them today.

      I think that a divinely inspired Bible would not look like nothing more than the blog of an ancient desert people.

      You would allow no other historical claims to be brought down by such flimsy attacks.

      Supernatural elements in other historical claims are brought down. Why should the Bible story be immune?

  • Phillip Moon

    I think you’re missing one of the points I made earlier up the thread. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in gods. None of them. Not yours, not theirs, not that one or this one. There is no evidence that gods exist. Period. I didn’t start out atheist. I was raised Christian, and stayed that way until my early teens, when I started questioning and reading. I am 59 years old. I haven’t prejudged anything, I came to these conclusions about 35 years ago after a whole lot of research. So far, I haven’t seen or heard any new arguments that persuade me to buy into religion. For me to believe the stories of the Bible are divine inspiration, I would first have to believe in the divine.

    Clearly I don’t insist on Genesis being historical. Not a problem for me, but I live in a country where over 40% of the population believe in Adam and Eve, Noah, angles and demons as real and/or historical beings. That may not describe you, but that is way too many people who fail to connect with reality as far as I’m concerned.

    There is nothing I’ve read or heard about that makes the mythology of a miracle working Jesus at all real for me. There are at least two common scenarios for these stories. 1. Jesus was the son of god, born of a virgin, worked miracles and was resurrected after his execution by the Romans or 2. That was all made up, because we know that those kinds of stories were common in the day, and everyone of any importance was some kind of magic worker, son of a god or brought back to life. Our understanding of reality, and the complete dearth of evidence for any of the above makes it easy for me to pick a side on this.

    I happen to know many modern intelligent people who believe this nonsense. Some of them are involved in science and have no problem partitioning their mind so as to hold science and reason while also embracing some form of religion including Christianity. Some are friends and some are family. I suggest that your mind reading skills are lacking. (That’s OK because I don’t believe in mind reading either). I think it unlikely in the extreme that god(s) spoke to anyone, even thousands of years ago because as of yet there is no evidence for said god(s). The Bible is written just the way I would expect the book to be written if it was put together by men (who knows, maybe some women, too) 2000 to 2500 years ago who had limited understanding of the world. There is nothing in it that speaks of inspiration except perhaps in the story telling aspect, but really nothing revealing or earth shattering, though I rather like some of Ecclesiastes and if you cherry pick the New Testament, there is some decent material there, though much of it can be found in many other writings. You don’t seem to know me as well as you thought.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    I think you’re missing one of the points I made earlier up the thread. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in gods. None of them. Not yours, not theirs, not that one or this one. There is no evidence that gods exist. Period. I didn’t start out atheist.

    So you are begging the question then?
    As regards Bob’s original topic of “worship of the true God will not be similar to that of man-made religions”, an axiomatic insistence that all-religions are man-made because there is no God is begging the question.

    Your atheism is as relevant to answering the question as my belief in God.

    The Bible is written just the way I would expect the book to be written if it was put together by men (who knows, maybe some women, too) 2000 to 2500 years ago who had limited understanding of the world. There is nothing in it that speaks of inspiration except perhaps in the story telling aspect, but really nothing revealing or earth shattering, though I rather like some of Ecclesiastes and if you cherry pick the New Testament, there is some decent material there, though much of it can be found in many other writings. You don’t seem to know me as well as you thought.

    What I find interesting is that you seem to expect that if it were divinely inspired then it would not at all seem to be from the time when it does actually come from. Inspiration in Christianity does not need to involve incredible modes of transmission (as eg Mormonism), but instead refers to the writing divinely carrying God’s message, whether it be in poetry, history, or any other literary genre.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      What I find interesting is that you seem to expect that if it were divinely inspired then it would not at all seem to be from the time when it does actually come from. Inspiration in Christianity does not need to involve incredible modes of transmission (as eg Mormonism), but instead refers to the writing divinely carrying God’s message, whether it be in poetry, history, or any other literary genre.
      What I’m having trouble wrapping my head around is how you can call it “Inspiration in Christianity”, as if all of Christianity were in accord on this inspiration. True, all stripes of the breed acknowledge the Bible to a greater or lesser extent, but immediately upon leaving the Bible for anything not written more than 1500 years ago, opinions and tempers verge apart in startling angles.
      The only way you can forward this argument of Inspiration in Christianity is if God stops inspiring anything not parroting the Bible around 450 CE and leaves everyone to just sort it out. Or, if you prefer, he has “played favorites” with a stripe that he liked, and the rest of Christianity…can’t tell?
      How does something so Inspired not have instant recognition by those of a close theology? Going back to the tree analogy, that’s like a New Englander being completely unintelligible to anyone else who speaks English. It just doesn’t work.

  • Darren

    But _not_ if every other world religion was actually created by Satan, prior to the creation of the real and True Christian religion, as a means of confusing us humans and discrediting the teachings of the Church!

    _And_ the very fact that you are even asking these questions only proves that Satan has corrupted your mind to the point that you are not even _capable_ of knowing the truth. Once God has restored your mind, all of these supposed contradictions will resolve themselves.

    That last one was actually used on me when I was 15… took almost 10 years to shake that little bit of mind-control off…

    • Phillip Moon

      :^)

  • keddaw

    If we admit the possibility of a True Religion, and that ‘God has written in the hearts of men’ then we should expect religions to tend towards the True Religion through iterations of getting-truer religions, as well as branches of getting-less-truer religion.
    Assuming that the One True Religion is ever found we should also expect new religions to branch off of it, but be in some way noticeably lacking (in something) compared to the True Religion.

    In the above reality we would see a host of religions, a mountain of them, but with the One True Religion a pinnacle at the top. The only problem is, on what basis can we judge them? What would set the True Religion apart from the almost-true religions and those apart from the not-even-close-to-true religions?

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